Directed by Simon West. Starring Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden, James Logan. (2011, R, 100 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 28, 2011
Mere hours after extolling the gravelly British pleasures of Jason Statham's career thus far to an unconvinced friend (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels! The Bank Job! Those Crank movies!), I walked out of this half-baked remake of Michael Winner's 1972 "killer of killers" film remembering the downside of Statham's CV: Call of Duty, Death Race, The Expendables, et cetera. Okay, so, fine, clearly the man's agent is schizophrenic when it comes to recommending roles for his client, but I've still got to say, the bizarro, Ishiro Honda-inspired, Akira Ifukube-scored, slo-mo faux kaiju eiga battle that concludes Crank: High Voltage nullifies a lot of the crap on Statham's extant record. It takes a very talented actor to hit the pitch running on Crank collective Neveldine/Taylor's warped playing field, but Statham managed it twice and lived to tell the tale (Uwe Boll's In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, but still …). Sadly, precious little of Statham's innate self-referencing charisma is on display in The Mechanic. Playing a role originated by Charles Bronson (rarely, if ever, a good idea), Statham is on full autopilot throughout as Arthur Bishop, a New Orleans-based assassin who, in a fit of conscience, agrees to mentor his own mentor's son not long after killing said mentor the elder. Yes, that sounds confusing, but it's not half as much a puzzler as why Sutherland agreed to participate in West's remake. As elder mentor Harry McKenna, Sutherland brings the only spark of honest emotion to a relentlessly uninvolving film. Foster's Steve McKenna, the kid who apparently needs only one montage of automatic weapons training to become an elite killing machine, is equally loveless and drifting, although at least his character has a reason to be vacant. West (Con Air) saturates his imagery in a sickly, sulphurous stew of rotten-egg yellows and oranges, making a mediocre picture downright repellent at times, and although his penchant for blowing things up (but good!) is in fine form, there's really no clear reason why a remake was warranted or why Statham, so exquisitely calibrated to action-comedy weirdness, would sign on to rehash the (far better) past glories of humorless Seventies action flicks.